Middle East Review of International Affairs

Volume 6, No. 1 - March 2002


Who is Responsible for the Taliban
by Michael Rubin *



The September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington refocused sustained American attention on Afghanistan for the first time since the Soviet invasion ended. The origin and rise of the Taliban became a subject of great interest. The U.S.-backed mujahidin from the era of the Soviet occupation and the Taliban, a movement developed a decade later, were fierce rivals. As such, the "blowback" argument--that Central Intelligence Agency policies of the 1980s are directly responsible for the rise of the Taliban--is inaccurate. It was Pakistan that backed radical Islamists to protect itself from Afghan nationalist claims on Pakistani territory, which Islamabad feared, might pull apart the country. Indeed, for independent Pakistan's first three decades, nationalist "Pushtunistan" rhetoric from Afghanistan posed a direct threat to Pakistani territorial integrity.

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Note *: Michael Rubin is an adjunct scholar of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, currently a visiting lecturer of Iranian politics at Hebrew University's Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations. Prior to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he traveled extensively in both the Northern Alliance and Taliban-controlled portions of Afghanistan. Dr. Rubin wishes to thank Col. Nick Pratt, USMC (ret.), course director and professor at The George C. Marshall Center for European Strategic Studies, for his insightful comments and criticisms. Back